Brazilian futsal kings reign supreme
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The final of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 was everything a showcase match should be: loud, colourful, emotional and dramatic. It was a fitting end to the tournament, which took place in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima from 1-18 November.

In Bangkok’s Huamark Indoor Stadium, Brazil became futsal world champions for a fifth time after defeating arch-rivals Spain 3-2 in extra time of a nail-biting final.

In a repeat of the 2008 title-decider, the South Americans once again came out on top after superb performances from both teams. Neto, who also won the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player, struck for A Seleção seconds before the end of extra time to seal the championship for his side.

Sorato: A dream final
“It was a dream final and it showed that in futsal you have to keep believing in yourself right until the end,” said Brazil coach Marcos Sorato after his team’s seventh win in as many games at the competition. Group stages victories over Japan, Portugal and Libya were followed up by a crushing defeat of Panama in the round of 16. A narrow quarter-final triumph over Argentina set-up the next continental encounter against Colombia in the last four, where another close game ended in Brazil’s favour.

Spain had a more difficult route to the final and could only draw with Asian heavyweights Iran in their opening fixture. Yet the Furia Roja improved with each match and enjoyed clear victories in the ensuing games against Panama, Morocco and Thailand. A quarter-final tie with Russia provided the perfect opportunity for the Iberians to demonstrate just who the European top dogs are.

A semi-final success against Italy paved the way for the showdown with Brazil, where the two-time world champions were forced to settle for second place for the third time, after finishing as runners-up in 1996 and 2008. Coach Venancio Lopez was understandably disappointed at the final whistle. “We could have won, but that’s just the way it is in sport. My players gave everything and I’m grateful for that,” he said.

Italy in third
Italy completed a familiar podium line-up after winning bronze thanks to victory over surprise package Colombia in the match for third place, meaning the Squadra Azzurra finished among the medals for a third successive time.

The Italians made their intentions clear right from the off with a dominant display to down Australia, before beating a strong Argentina side who had arrived in Thailand with their reputation bolstered after winning the South American qualifying tournament. Victory in the third group game against Mexico ensured Italy reached the knockout rounds as one of only three teams to have earned maximum points.

There they ousted Egypt before an extraordinary quarter-final comeback against Portugal, where Italy turned a 3-0 half time deficit into a 4-3 triumph after extra time. That set up a semi-final against bogey team Spain, who had beaten them both at the European Championships in February this year and at Brazil 2008. While it was not to be third time lucky for Italy, they were nonetheless celebrating at the end after securing third place ahead of Colombia, while Stefano Mammarella was chosen as best goalkeeper of the tournament.

Colombia cause an upset
In spite of that defeat, Los Cafeteros were without doubt the breakthrough team in Thailand. Nobody could have predicted that the debutants would reach the last four, yet with each game coach Arney Fonnegra’s charges seemed to get better and better. Their campaign began badly with a 5-2 reverse against Guatemala, but after their subsequent fixture against Solomon Islands, the South Americans changed tactics and focused primarily on keeping a tight defence.

In the last 16, Colombia eliminated ten-time AFC Futsal champions Iran, before putting Ukraine to the sword on the way to a semi-final fixture with Brazil. The newcomers put up a strong fight against the defending champions and ultimately finishing in fourth is an achievement they can be proud of.

Mixed bag for rookies
Not all of the other five debutants enjoyed such success. Both Morocco (in Group B with Spain, Iran and Panama) and Mexico (Group D with Italy, Argentina and Australia) found the competition too tough, while Kuwait also packed their bags for home after three games. Yet the Asian underdogs should not be too despondent, as even though their win over Egypt was not enough to progress to the next stage, beating the African powerhouse gives plenty of cause for optimism in the future.

By way of contrast, Panama and Serbia both hit the ground running in Thailand in their inaugural outings on the world stage. The Central Americans went through to the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams, where they lost to Brazil, while the Europeans set the group stage alight with some astonishing displays.

Serbia came top of Group E, leaving more renowned teams like Czech Republic and Egypt trailing in their wake. However, coach Aca Kovacevic’s side were stopped short in the knockout phase, as their lack of big-game experience took its toll against Argentina.

Steady progress
Hosts Thailand were another team to cause excitement among the fans, drawing roars of approval from the home support with their refreshingly attacking style of play. Despite defeats to Ukraine and Paraguay, victory over Costa Rica took the Thais into the knockout stages, where their dreams were ended by a ruthless Spanish outfit.

Oceania champions Solomon Islands deserve plenty of recognition for their accomplishments. The islanders lost every game at Brazil 2008, but caused perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament by beating Guatemala in their final group match, simultaneously ending their opponents’ hopes of progression.

Australia likewise recorded a rare FIFA Futsal World Cup victory. The Futsalroos overcame newcomers Mexico to secure only their third win in their sixth tournament participation.

Disappointment in Asia
Prior to kick-off at Thailand 2012, Iran had set their sights considerably higher than the last 16. While the Asian giants began brightly with a draw against Spain, their subsequent narrow victories over Morocco and Panama did little to justify their tag as one of the title favourites. They failed to improve against Colombia and were homeward bound.

Asian champions Japan were also forced to take their leave earlier than planned after coming up short against Ukraine in the first knockout round. Russia were aiming for a spot on the podium and were left frustrated by their quarter-final defeat to Spain, while another top team, Portugal, were likewise sent packing in the last eight.

In four years, the world’s best 24 nations will meet again for the eighth edition of the FIFA Futsal World Cup. Six countries (France, Iran, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Spain and Czech Republic) have registered their interest in hosting the tournament and FIFA will make a final decision in March 2013.

Whether winners or losers this time around, come 2016 every side will be determined to give their fans something to cheer about as they pursue their FIFA Futsal World Cup dreams. And one thing is already guaranteed: FIFA.com will be on hand every step of the way.

Participants:
Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Egypt, Guatemala, Italy, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Russia, Solomon Islands, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine

Final table:
1. Brazil (Gold)
2. Spain (Silber)
3. Italy (Bronze)
4. Colombia

Personal honours
adidas Golden Ball – Neto (BRA)
adidas Silver Ball – Kike (ESP)
adidas Bronze Ball – Ricardinho (POR)
adidas Golden Shoe – Eder Lima (RUS)
adidas Silver Shoe – Rodolfo Fortino (ITA)
adidas Bronze Shoe – Fernandinho (BRA)
adidas Golden Glove – Stefano Mammarella (ITA)

Fairplay Award: Argentina

Stadiums and Cities
Indoor Stadium Huamark, Nimibutr Stadium (both Bangkok), Korat Chatchai (Nakhon Ratchasima)

Goals overall: 349 (average/match: 6.71)

Fans overall: 160,932
Average fans/match: 3,094